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Introduction to Rigging: Planning Your Rig

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Date Added: 27th March 2012
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There are lots of object types in the 3D world, so it's easy to mix them up or delete what you shouldn't when you're on a tight schedule or working on really large scenes. Be careful to always name all of your objects, whilst keeping the names as clean and understandable as possible.

A simple pipeline only uses prefixes and suffixes for all nodes (objects in your Maya scene). The main idea here is team integration. When another person opens up your scene, they should be able to edit it easily if everything is correctly organized. Remember: please work with care in order to avoid unnecessary work for others and for yourself!

A simple yet efficient approach is to use three letters from the name of the character as a prefix, and also three letters from the node type as a suffix. And a good idea is to use underscores to make the names more readable. If applicable, indicate the node side using just one letter ("L" for left and "R" for right). Try to use underscores only when prefixing and suffixing, make the object name cleaner by separating words using capital letters between them ("l_greenColoredEyeball_jnt", for example) (Fig.04).

Fig. 04


Whenever rigging creatures, be they humanoid, alien, animal, robotic, or whatever, always look for anatomy references in books and on the internet. Having knowledge about anatomy is a very important basis for creating good skeletons and muscle deformations.

Before you start your rig, take some time to look at the real world, as well as movie and image references. By doing this, you will most certainly have a clearer idea of what objectives to meet and how to achieve them (Fig.05).

Fig. 05

Basic Anatomy

Let's now discuss a little about some of the basic aspects of anatomy so we can position our joints in the best way we possibly can - this always ensures good rigging results!

We will quickly cover some deformation facts and limits, establishing those imaginary "mass blocks" to better understand how the deformation works in each area. Try to compare it to your own body to better understand how the rig should work.


The center of gravity (or center of mass) of a character is located in the spine, near the navel (we'd usually consider the waist joint as the root joint of all the hierarchy). When building the chest, be aware that it's the body part that deforms the least, while the abdomen is the most flexible region of the spine (Fig.06).

Fig. 06

Head & Neck

We can divide the head and the neck into two main rotation points: one for the neck located in the base of the cervical vertebrae region, and the other for the head located at the base of the skull (Fig.07).

Fig. 07

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Mohamed on Mon, 25 March 2013 6:55am
I want to download the sample program Maya 2011
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